October 14 - November 19, 2004

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NEWS FLASHES

Bermuda

WE MADE IT! We arrived safely in Bermuda on November 13, after a four day passage of about 650 miles (as the albatross flies) or 700 miles (as the boat sails). Getting here was a big milestone for us -- it was our first real deep water passage, and a notoriously difficult and stormy trip across the Gulf Stream.

'Til now everything we've done has been coastal, including our trip to bring Eagle's Wings into the Great Lakes, all of our lake sailing, and our long trip to Newport. As we frequently explained to other sailors (when they questioned our level of experience), coastal sailing is tougher and more dangerous than open ocean travel -- there are more hard things to run into. But we don't have to explain anymore. We're deep water sailors now.

Bermuda means another thing to us -- we're finally "off the clock". We've been pushing, hurrying, and working around the clock for about two years, and with even more intensity since we left Waukegan -- all with the goal of hitting the November 2004 window for getting to Bermuda. So now maybe we can slow down? This is supposed to be relaxing, right?

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Product Testing

We were always curious what would happen to an IBM laptop if you dropped it in salt water. IBM doesn't make any claims, but you never know...

So on October 30, while getting off the boat at the Newport Yacht Club, Beth decided to see if the laptop would still work after being submerged.

It didn't.

Not only that, but IBM didn't seem to understand the importance of our product testing program, and told us that the experiment wasn't covered by the warranty. We're going to write them an angry letter.

Beth says the experiment was like a bad dream happening in slow motion. The computer floated when it hit the water (because it was in a padded case), but it immediately started to float away on the ebbing tide. As Ken was nowhere in sight (still in bed), Beth decided to jump in after the computer, even though she had all of her clothes on (including butt pack containing her wallet and Palm Pilot), and even though she doesn't swim very well in a bathing suit, let alone a full set of heavy clothes. In fact, Beth never sails without a lifejacket. She remembers wondering (as she jumped in) whether she was going to float or sink.

Luckily her heavy pile jacket turned out to work like a life jacket, and she floated like a cork. She then employed her powerful dog paddle to rescue the computer and bring it back against the tide.

As they say, the rescue was a success, but the patient died.

With a sinking feeling Beth took the computer out of the case and watched the water pour out of every orifice. She also heard a sickening sizzling noise as the computer fried itself. (The computer was in sleep mode, so it had power on. We were told later that it might have survived if the power had been off).

Drowned computer Beth drying herself and computer after swim in Newport Harbor.  

Trying to look on the bright side, Beth remarked that this incident probably happened for a reason. Ken's answer..."Yeah, stupidity!" Beth also assured Ken she would have jumped in after him if he had fallen in. Given the state of the victim, Ken wasn't reassured.

This episode was very upsetting. The laptop was the machine we were using to do the website. It contained all of our digital pictures and other records. We hadn't done a backup in several weeks so we lost a great deal. Beth was totally bummed out.

We checked out the cost of having a data recovery outfit recover the hard drive. They wanted $2500! Beth sent the drive to her brother-in-law, Steve, who is a real computer wiz. He confirmed that the drive was toast and found another place that would do recovery for about $900. At this point, we decided to hold off and see if we could limp by without the data.

Fortunately, Beth's Palm Pilot stayed dry. Seems she floated so high in her pile jacket that her butt (and hence her buttpack) were completely out of the water. This was good, as all the information in the Palm Pilot was backed up -- on the computer.

We have now invested in several dry bags and make it a policy to stow items in a dry bag before getting off the boat. We're also going to let IBM do its own darned testing.

October 14 - 26, 2004

As soon as we got to Newport we started making use of its highly specialized marine labor force. (Meaning we immediately started hiring other people to do our work for us.) On one day we had people working on four different projects. We expected to install a new watermaker, but we also had unexpected repairs to the boom and the mainsheet system. It turns out some of the fittings were undersized for our boat and we needed engineering help to fabricate a beefier boom vang attachment and a stronger traveler car system for our mainsheet. We also had some custom oil hoses replaced in the engine room and had a little bit of carpentry done inside.

New traveler control system for our mainsheet Here's the new traveler control car that Jim Gretsky of Sail Spars Design custom designed for us. The new car has 4:1 purchase, while the old system was 2:1. We call this one "the crab" for obvious reasons.  

Part of the reason for all this work is that we know we won't find this kind of high quality expertise again until we get to New Zealand. From here on we will have to make do on our own. (We had the same feeling whenever we went into a supermarket.)

Last year we hired Newport boat architects Rodger Martin and Ross Weene to design the stern platform extension on our boat. It was nice to get to see them in Newport.

Here we are all admiring their design work on our stern. The new extension eliminated the drag caused by our old, submersed transom, resulting in a dramatic performance improvement, especially in light air.

  Ken with Ross Weene and Rodger Martin

 

Beth exercising Foodsaver vacuum system

We did lots of provisioning -- food and spare parts. Here Beth is vacuum sealing transmission fluid. Keeps it from running all over if the containers leak. (They do.)

 

 

You're not really a true cruiser until you stow large quantities of wine under the floo boards. We stowed two cases of wine (bottle by bottle) in vaccum bags and foam padding. The boat continues to amaze us by swallowing up all the stuff we bring on board.   Stowing wine under floorboards

Of course, as soon as you start poking around the boat you are bound to find new problems.

Ken checking out webasto leak Ken discovered a leak (see reddish fluid) in our webasto heating system. We lost quite a bit of coolant under some cabinets. The system still works but we'll have to recharge it (a big job).  

We were fortunate to connect with some friends and relatives during our stay in Newport. Beth's cousin Joan and her husband Roger came over from Connecticut for a day. They brought us some crisp, fresh apples and treated us to a great dinner.

Our friend Bob Russ flew out from California to spend a few days with us. His wife Pauline sent along some delicious homemade butter brickle. Bob noticed that our propane control system did not have a detector/alarm built in and volunteered to install a new system.

Ken and Bob with new propane dectection system Ken and Bob with the new propane control and detection system Bob installed for our stove.  

We actually did take some time off while Bob visited and took a ride up to Boston and Cambridge, home to MIT, our alma mater. We had fun exploring some old haunts but we were also surprised by some changes.

Below left, Ken starts to "chimmney" up a slot in the 30 story Green building, while Bob takes a picture. In their student days, Ken and Bob had talked about trying to go all the way up, but (surprisingly), good sense prevailed and they never tried it. Below right, Ken and Bob try to leap up a wall at MacGregor House (their old dorm). They used to be able to grab the top of the wall and pull themselves up. The wall is taller than it used to be.

Ken climbing Green Building Bob and Ken scaling wall at MacGregor House  

We stumbled on a sailboat regatta while we visited MIT. Over 20 different schools sent 2-person co-ed teams and the competition was fierce out on the Charles River. Looked like fun.

Sailboat race in the Charles River   Tech dinghies getting ready to race

 

New dorm at MIT   We saw a strange new dormatory building on campus. It looked like several large bites had been taken out of it. We're pretty much out of the know on the latest in architecture -- but it sure looked ugly to us.

Some traditions never die and we weren't disappointed to see the familiar "Smoots" markings on the Harvard Bridge.

Legend has it that some MIT fraternity guys rolled (end over end) a very drunk fraternity brother named Smoot across the Harvard Bridge. They marked their progress along the way in "Smoots". Measured in "Smoots", the bridge is 364.4 "Smoots" (plus 1 ear) long. The fraternity repaints the markings every year.   Smoots on Harvard Bridge

The World Series was in progress and the city seemed a little crazy. We were just as glad to be out of there before the Sox won.

October 27, 2004

Newport is decidedly a Red Sox town. People were very excited about the possibility of winning the Series and we got caught up in the excitement.

Here's Michael, the night watchman at the harbor and an avid Red Sox fan. Michael was a very smart young guy with the kind of magnetic personality that attracted friends (especially girls) to come and hang out on cold dark nights at the yacht club, just to talk.

Ken figures that any guy who can convince women to hang out in cold, dark, wet, windy places around boats must have a lot going for him.

  Michael, guard at Newport Yacht Club

 

Total eclipse of the moon  

The night of the 4th game in the series was very erie. We saw a total eclipse of the moon before heading off to a bar to watch the final innings. We figured it would take a total eclipse of the moon for the Sox to win.

The Cubs would probably require the moon to disappear permanently.

 

We felt bad watching the game and not buying anything at the local bar, so Beth reluctantly bought and ate an entire triple brownie while watching the Red Sox win the fourth game.   Beth watching World Series and eating chocolate brownies

October 29 - October 31, 2004

Beth and Ken with Beth's Aunt and cousins

We had the good fortune to rendevous with Beth's Aunt Rosalie and cousins during a trip they had planned long ago to Connecticut and Newport in celebration of Beth's Aunt's birthday.

We all toured Cornelius Vanderbilt's 70 room "summer cottage" in Newport.

 

By the end of October we were watching the weather closely and Beth was making daily runs to Panera Bread to use their wi-fi connection to the internet to get weather charts.

One night she got to the shop after closing time and sat outside in the dark to pick up weather through the wi-fi connection. A woman came up to Beth and in a desperate voice asked where she could get chocolate at such a late hour! Beth told her about a Starbucks several blocks away that might still be open. There must be a beacon over Beth's head that identifies her as a chocolate expert.

November 1 - November 8, 2004

The weather in Newport turned cold, rainy, windy, and generally unpleasant. We were very anxious to get moving south. As the time wore on, the temperatures got colder and colder -- we were even hearing reports of snow in the outlying areas.

The harbors in Newport were closing for the season and it was a strange feeling to watch the docks being pulled up around us. We were tied to the pier, so we could stay indefinitely -- unless we froze to death first.   Pulling up docks in Newport

One of the boaters in our harbor had to battle some stiff winds to get their boat off the dock and got pushed into us. Through strenuous effort we were able to fend it off, but we wondered what would have happened if we hadn't been around.

Fending off boat   Boat drifting down on us

Getting out of Newport

We needed a good weather window to get out of Newport, since even minor storms can turn into very bad stuff in the Gulf Stream.

We thought we might have a weather window Nov. 1 to leave for Bermuda and we worked furiously to get all of the projects wrapped up. Two of the people who were helping us (Dave Beeling of Newport Rigging and Jim Gretsky) worked until after 3 a.m. helping us get our boom reinstalled and re-rigged as well as installing the new traveler control system. They were cheerful and never complained about the ridiculous hours. Apparently late night drills aren't totally unusual when people are racing to get out of Newport at the end of the season. And Dave and Jim are both America's Cup veterans -- so they have that "whatever it takes" attitude. The next morning, Rob and Randy of Shore Sails sacrificed part of their weekend to reinstall our mainsail, which had been at their shop for inspection.

We used two sources of weather information to plan our departure from Newport. One source is NOAA. We could access weather charts directly from their website or download charts through our SSB (single-side band radio). The other source is Herb Hilgenberg, a (former) cruiser who provides detailed weather routing over SSB radio every day to boats in the Atlantic region.

Herb is amazing. He was keeping track of over 40 different boats when we checked into his network, and providing each one with detailed weather forecasts and routing advice -- with far more detail and precision than you can get from any offical service. Herb has been providing this service for over 17 years and is a real institution in the cruising community. He doesn't charge, although people send donations.

Beth talking to Herb on SSB Beth talking to Herb on the SSB. We, along with several other boats in Newport, were looking for a window to Bermuda. As it turned out, no window would open up for 9 days.  

We had hoped to leave on November 1, but the weather closed in on us. A string of 5 lows were tracking toward the coast, and a major storm was forecast to be right over our heads and into the Atlantic in several days.

String of 5 lows on weather fax Storm forecast on the weather fax  

Day after day we checked in with Herb and he counseled us to sit tight. With just the two us, we could afford to be flexible -- we wondered how some of the other boats would fare, since they had crews who most likely had time constraints and couldn't afford to wait around.

Since we were hunkered down in Newport, we took the opportunity to do some entertaining.

Beth is sprucing up the boat for company by vacuuming with her nifty professional quality backpack vacuum cleaner.   Vacuuming with backpack cleaner

 

Whipping up Chicken Morengo   Ken preparing his delicious Chicken Marengo dish for our new friends, Roger and Christine. Roger fixed our radar early in our Newport stay and we enjoyed their company on several occasions. They treated us to some delicious homemade soup on one cold evening.

November 9, 2004

On November 9 Herb finally saw an opening for all of the boats pinned down in Newport. The race was on -- to get to Newport before something got us.

We had light, shifty winds pretty much for the whole trip and we did quite a bit of motor sailing. But at least we didn't get beat up. The air temperature was in the 40's (water temperature 53 degrees) when we left and we were glad to be going south!

We were delighted when a pod of about nine dolphins cavorted and played around our boat -- especially in the bow wave -- for at least two hours on our first day out. "Play" is the only word to describe this, as they pushed each other out of the way to ride our bow wave.

Dolphins playing in our bow wave   Dolphin leaping free

It was magical to have these a beautiful, graceful animals swimming with us. This was certainly a wonderful beginning to our voyage.

This trip would be the longest passage the two of us had ever made and we both took the seasickness medication scopolamine. The medicine really worked because neither of us got even slightly queasy during the voyage. One downside is the medicine really dries out your mouth and makes your throat sore. As for the hallucinations, there were still no dancing girls, although Ken did notice that the creaks and groans of the boat sometimes sounded like people talking.

We tried to check in with Herb but couldn't raise him on the SSB. Several other boats who were headed south also complained they couldn't get Herb. It turns out that the atmospheric conditions made the propagation impossible for two days. Herb later remarked this had never happened in all the years he had been working the weather net. It seemed pretty lonely without his help.

November 10, 2004

We entered the Gulf Stream that evening and the water temperature jumped to 75 degrees! We also picked up a favorable current and for a short while saw speeds over ground exceeding 10 knots. The night watch was enchanting with phosphoresence lights twinkling and sparkling like diamonds in our wake.

November 11, 2004

Ken couldn't resist the sight of all that water with all those fish in it. He decided to test rig some lures.   Ken rigging fishing lure

 

Trolling through the Gulf Stream This "mother of all fishing reels" lives on our stern rail and holds 1500 yards of 80 lb test line. We have a smaller reel on the port stern rail and Ken put out lures on both lines before he went off watch at 8 a.m.  

Ken didn't get much sleep because within an hour of his going off watch Beth heard both lines paying out -- we had two mahi mahi (dorado) on the lines! Ken had said that Beth could wake him up if we caught anything, so she obliged and woke him from a deep slumber. He was so excited that he only put half his clothes on to come up and help land the fish. We each worked a reel, trying to tire out the fish.

Bringing in Dorado The dorado were a beautiful bright yellow/green color. We decided to just keep one of the fish and let the other go. Here Ken is preparing to land the one we would keep.  

Ken landing dorado using a gaff. It was very effective but Beth was mortified at all of the blood. Finally, Ken poured a little alcohol on the fish's gills, killing it quickly and (hopefully) painlessly.

Beth was traumatized by this whole operation, and empathized with the fish.

  Landing Dorado with gaff hook

 

Ken with 41" Dorado   Ken is very pleased with his first salt water catch. Notice how the dorado changed color. The fish was 41" long.

 

Ken fileted the fish and Beth managed to overcome her trauma once the fish was reduced to filets that looked like they came from a grocery store.

We had a large delicious dinner of pan-fried dorado seasoned with cajun spices. We froze several other large packages for future dinners.

  Making filets for dinner

November 12, 2004

Up to now the winds had been very flukey, changing directions constantly. It was very disconcerting to watch the wind indicator do 360 revolutions on a regular basis (maybe we were under the spell of the Bermuda Triangle). Many of the other boats were running low on fuel, and we appreciated our 1200 mile motoring range. We could almost have motored to Bermuda and back again if we had to.

Finally, after several days of motoring, we found some favorable winds and saw consistent speeds in the 9 and 10 knot range with 12-15 knots of breeze on a close reach. What a great way to spend Beth's birthday!

Hand steering in perfect conditions Ken had a terrific time handsteering the boat in these perfect sailing conditions. Note the big grin.  

We ran into some squally weather as we neared Bermuda. We put in a third reef and were still going plenty fast.

We arrived near Bermuda in the middle of the night and decided to heave to until daylight. The very efficient and friendly guys at Bermuda Harbor Radio offered to help guide us in, but we felt uneasy going into a strange harbor in the dark. Bermuda is ringed with dangerous reefs and many, many boats have been wrecked in the waters around the island.

(Sailing ships headed for the Carribean from Europe used to deliberately try to find Bermuda as a check on their navigation, despite the fact that the island is hard to see and ringed by underwater reefs. The ships frequently found it by running into it. Go figure.)

November 13, 2004

Approaching Bermuda

Approaching Bermuda early in the morning. We cleared through Customs at Ordnance Island at St. George's Town and then anchored out in the harbor for the duration of our stay.

 

We were very excited to have made landfall in Bermuda. This was our longest voyage to-date (700 miles, since we didn't go exactly in a straight line) and we got through it with no major breakdowns or seasickness. We were grateful to Herb for helping us pick such benign conditions.

November 14 - 19, 2004

The view from our anchorage spot in St. George's Harbour. Bermuda Radio is located in the middle of the hill in the center of the picture. Everyone keeps their radio tuned to channel 16 to keep tabs on the traffic coming through Bermuda Radio.   Anchored in St. George's Harbour

Anchoring certainly has its advantages. No dock fees, lots of privacy, nice ventilation. The disadvantages are that if the wind shifts, your anchor can drag and you are constantly checking to make sure you aren't going to bump into other boats.

Early in our stay, the wind shifted 180 degrees and we started to drag our anchor. We ended up hanging out in the middle of the main channel (main thoroughfare into and out of the harbor). The winds had picked up to 20-25 knots and it was a real challenge getting re-situated. There are several wrecks submerged in the crowded anchorage so you have to pick your spot carefully. We finally got re-anchored and didn't have further problems with dragging.

We ended up being stranded on the boat for several days as our outboard motor for the dinghy would not start. We finally got it running but continued to have sporadic problems with it.

When our dingy was working, we visited the town. Cuban cigars are very big here and it seemed that every establishment sold Cuban cigars as a side business. You'd almost think that Cubans were illegal in the States and that lots of U.S. sailors come through here. We weren't tempted.

Cuban cigars at the internet cafe Tours and Cuban cigars  

The boat pictured above right is a replica of the Deliverance, one of the boats built by the crew of the ship "Sea Venture", after they were shipwrecked and marooned on the uninhabited Bermuda Island for almost a year in the early 1600's. Bermuda's colonization started with that shipwreck, and Shakespeare based "The Tempest" on it.

More repairs

So far we've spent most of our time in Bermuda working on the boat -- in keeping with the saying that "cruising is working on your boat in exotic places."

Sheared off transmission bolt

Notice that the bolt on the right of the picture is at a funny angle. The head had sheared off, leaving the threaded body and the nut trapped between the transmission housing and the end of the drive shaft. As the shaft turned, the bolt carved a groove in the housing, throwing metal shavings all over (visible in picture).

Ken found it after he noticed the shavings while doing a routine oil change. (Another argument for preventive maintenance.) Ken had to use a hack saw to free the bolt. He replaced all of the bolts on the transmission.

 

It seems that you can never be too vigilant. The vibration and working of fittings on a boat cause things to loosen up or to break. We found a "ring ding" on deck but still haven't found where it came from. Looks like there will be a trip up the mast in Beth's future.

Our winches have been complaining so those should be cleaned. Both heads have leaking issues and we need to fix those before we get underway again. We also found a small tear in our bimini and Beth got out the sewing machine to make the repair before the whole thing blew out.

While we have been spending a great deal of time repairing things on the boat, we did take some time to have dinner with a couple, John and Susan, who sailed a boat from Newport at the same time as us. We had heard them talking with Herb on the weather net.

John and Susan are caretakers for a 58 foot Hinkley and they were moving the boat from New England to the Caribbean for its owners. They have been delivering boats for over 20 years and were a wonderful source of advice and good stories. We were impressed that they were relaxed and organized enough to have dinner with us the night before they were going to depart for the Virgin Islands. We would have been running around like crazy people.

John and Susan also told us we were working too hard (this seems to be a theme). We're hoping to take some time off to explore the island before we also head further south in a week or so.